A few weeks ago now (this entry has taken a while!) Claire and I ran the Medway Mile in Rochester. We were going to run it last year but it rained horrendously all day and they had to cancel it as the course, which is predominantly on cobbles, was deemed unsafe. Luckily this time the weather was much better, in fact it was dry all day and the sun even came out a few hours beforehand so the festivities were conducted in warm sunshine.
The race starts in the road between Rochester Cathedral and the Castle, with most of the events and activities happening in the castle grounds. We got there an hour or so before to get my running number and ‘transponder’ as they called it (very James Bond) for the Elite Race. This was a bit of a misnomer (obviously, as I was running in it) but it was to differentiate the quicker runners (i.e. for those aiming for under 8 minutes) and those who would be taking part in the mass participation mile later on and who would be jogging, walking, and pushing prams etc.
Inside the castle were a load of activities for children to get involved in, from laser clay pigeon shooting, to face painting, to archery tag. Everything was free (including the medal the kids got for doing the activities) and they all seemed to be having a great time, running around getting stuck in. The race itself was free to enter for all, both the elite and what I will call the ‘People’s’ mile. Entry to the People’s mile also got you a free t-shirt (the colour being dependent on your surname’s initial; mine was a lovely orange hue, Claire’s was a fetching yellow). We found out a running t-shirt got you free entry into Rochester castle as well, somewhere I’d never actually been inside. We leapt at the chance to explore for free and see the river and city from the top of the castle. The wandering around, and up and down the dodgy only half-there-stairs, was also a good warm up for the race.
After a good wander round, and throwing only a slight wobbler while I tried to get my running number on (I blame nerves and an immature mind…), I went for a jog along Rochester High Street to warm up. It was a bit weird running at quarter past seven on a Friday night and also trying to prepare to race over a mile, a distance I had never raced before except on my own as a time trial. I say race, but I wasn’t going to be contending for a win as there would be some very quick runners out there, but I did want to get a PB after I had fallen a few seconds short a couple of weeks earlier.
I finished my warm up, got a kiss and a good luck from Claire and tried to get into the zone as I wandered up to the start. There was quite a charged atmosphere amongst the runners and I spotted some of the quick club runners who I recognised from finishing at the front of our local parkrun. The tension was unlike anything I had felt before at the beginning of a race, even a tough marathon. I think as it was such a short distance you had to get out quickly and go for it straight away. I felt quite nervous standing there waiting to get going. I wanted to get under 5:44 but wasn’t sure if the course would be too tough, or if more importantly I was capable of it. But then I saw Claire angling to get a good position to take photos across from the start and give me wave, which snapped me out of it (pun not intended but kept in, in the hope it makes me look clever). I then had two key thoughts; to calm down as this really wasn’t that important, and just go for it and enjoy the excitement of the race…
The Mayor was the starter for the race and duly counted us down from 10 (to ratchet up the tension a bit more). Then we were off and it was a relief to get going. I went out fairly hard and there was a little bit of traffic as people settled into their paces and drifted into their respective places. I couldn’t even see the leaders after about 30 seconds, but concentrated on going past the people in front of me as we made our way up the slight rise of the first section. I was blowing a bit, as I was going too fast, but then I settled in to a more sustainable pace and steadied myself. Then after about 400m we had the first turn, which took us on to a slight descent. We were more stretched out at this point, but it was still a bit tricky to pick you way past runners while others looked to nip past themselves and the cobbles underfoot didn’t install much confidence.
Then things settled down again and I was a bit on my own, trying to maintain the pace and not let up. We were passing through bits of Rochester I hadn’t seen before so tried to have a nose whilst still looking where I was going. The route turned again and we had another nice downhill bit to bring us along the high street which let me pick up the pace again. The high street had a few people wandering along the pavement as we went past on the road, and there was the odd shout of encouragement. Towards the end of the high street we turned back towards the start, but then veered off away from the Cathedral and towards the Castle and the crowds increased (including some revellers at the local pub who backed on to the route).
This led to the only real hill on the course which was a very steep but short climb of about 25 metres into the castle grounds (interestingly Strava and Garmin didn’t even register it!). I had already decided to hit the hill hard and so accelerated at the bottom and went past three runners, I think. I was then redlining though and I could feel my legs start to get heavy and my form wobble. I also realised I had still quite a bit to go and needed to run across and round the grounds to get to the finish. Oh dear!
I had to slow a tad then, just to get myself together and not fall apart before the finish. There were a few runners ahead of me but I gained and then passed them, I guess as they were feeling the hill too, and then I tucked in behind the lone runner ahead of me as we made the final tight turn. I saved myself a bit and then used the turn to shoot me to the line and accelerated as hard as I could to get past him and hit the line. My arms and legs were all over the place and I could feel my face pull the rictus grin you see at the end of track races on the telly (just moving much slower!). Looking at the timing clock I could see I was going to get close to my PB and tried (and failed) to keep accelerating to the line, but it was enough – 5:38:6 and a new personal best!
I kind of celebrated, there was feeble punch of the air, but mostly I just tried not to lose my early dinner and collapse on the floor in front of everyone. It hurt and I felt rough. But it passed as it always does after a bit of wandering around and I celebrated with Claire. I didn’t know exactly what time I had got as I finished, just that it was under 5:44. But then rather handily they displayed the times at the finish and I was very happy with a (near) 6 second PB and only being 3 seconds behind the first lady! (The leaders were nearly a minute ahead, in about 4:38 – aka bloody quick!). I’m still very pleased with the time, especially as it was my first PB over any distance for about 6 months.
I had a drink, sit and a stretch to get myself together and then it was time for the People’s mile. Claire and I wandered down to the start again, this time both in our free t-shirts, and we joined the throng. It was a little chaotic at the beginning with walkers getting in the way in the runners section and vice versa, and when we started things weren’t helped when an unfortunate girl fell within the first ten metres and we all had to squeeze round the scene. Kids were shooting all over the place, (left, right and the wrong way) and some morons thought it would be a good idea to stand in the road and get in the way (maybe they didn’t notice the thousands of people in brightly coloured t-shirts stampeding towards them?). The further we went the less crowded it got however and we made it round safely (although there were more casualties; we saw another kid hit the deck near the finish but he was ok, and he didn’t break his phone which seemed to be his main concern!).
Despite the start being a little stressful for the Mass mile we had a great time and I would definitely recommend it to everyone for next year. The Elite Race had a good field of runners, an interesting and challenging course and all at a great price! The free events and activities for kids is also great for families and getting to see inside Rochester Castle was an unexpected bonus. I’ll be signing up for next year.
Before and since the Mile I have been slowly increasing my weekly mileage and I’m pleased to say everything has been going ok so far, with no body parts falling off etc. I’m trying to get my mileage back up to what it was at the end of last year and then a bit further… Hopefully I can get back into the kind of shape I was in then and get my times down over shorter distances, especially 10k and the half marathon. The next race though is the Roald Dahl Challenge in mid-September, which is another ‘run as many laps as you can/want in 6 hours’ type deal from the people at Saxon, Vikings & Norman Marathons. I want to cover a marathon if I can, but gently, and if anything feels wrong I won’t risk injuring myself. It’s at Samphire Hoe Nature Reserve, where I ran my first marathon and my legs nearly came off, so I will be treating the course with the upmost respect!
That’s all from me for now. Thanks for listening and enjoy your running. Adam 🙂